how the press helped kill thousands of soldiers

UPDATE 5/7/07: My nephew-in-law, who also served a year in Iraq (for the Guard, not the Army), let me know that he thinks this blog entry—the part about the soldier who’s now experiencing PTSD— is hurtful to soldiers who served in Iraq. He was referring specifically to the part where I say that it was a terrible waste of a year in this soldier’s life. He said that he, for one, does not feel his year in Iraq was a waste and that he feels he did a lot of good while he was over there. I’m glad he feels that way—not everyone who served in Iraq does.

My nephew-in-law also said people are reading this entry and are thinking it’s about him, and it might hurt him if I don’t remove this entry and that more and more people are seeing it everyday. I’m sorry if people are thinking this—my nephew-in-law is not the only military person I know and I can’t help whatever assumptions people make. So, to the people who know who my nephew-in-law is and think this entry is about him: stop jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to name names or reveal my sources—that’s not the point of the entry. The point is that this war is evil and has consequences that go far beyond statistics; that it has long-term consequences in terms of the damage wrought on human lives; and that the consequences should not be minimized or swept under the rug the way they were during the Vietnam conflict.

The way the consequences of this war on our own soldiers have been mostly hidden and definitely minimized only exacerbates the damage. Suffering from PTSD is not shameful; repeating—as a society—the same mistakes we should’ve learned to fix from Vietnam IS shameful. The more people who speak up and say, “This is happening” the better—maybe it will sink in.

Someone I know served a year in Iraq. Last time I talked with him, he seemed to be unscathed, at least in terms of not being phsyically wounded and seemingly emotionally okay. His unit didn’t lose any soldiers so he didn’t have to watch his buddies die. He seemed cheerful, outgoing, happy to be getting back to life stateside. He didn’t bring up his time in Iraq, but he didn’t evade questions about it. He didn’t seem weird, or like there was something just not right. Yes, nasty about the people of the country he helped occupy (except for the kids)—but that kind of thing I remember from Vietnam days, how the gentlest of men who didn’t have a thing against anybody would come back snarling about “gooks” and what vermin they thought they were. The military doesn’t exactly stress sensitivity.

So I was happy when I thought this soldier managed to survive his tour relatively intact.

But he isn’t. I won’t go into the details, but he’s having dreams and flashbacks and did something that, if he were a civilian, would’ve landed him in prison. It was a choice of psychiatric treatment or bad consequences would happen. So he isn’t intact—he came back with post-traumatic stress disorder. I am relieved he is getting treatment so soon (relatively, anyway)—I know guys from Vietnam who were ill with PTSD for years and years before they were able to get treatment of any kind. And some of these guys never did get treatment and are among the homeless or the institutionalized or the dead.

But I am still stunned at how he just snapped. I hope he recovers. He has a wife who loves him dearly; strong, supportive, and good parents; a large and loving family—both his own family and the one he married into. I hope it’s enough support so that, along with treatment, he can stop having the nightmares and settle in to the life he wanted before he was sent to Iraq. What a terrible waste of a year of his life and of the time it will take him to recover from that wasted year.

I’ve been angry about the Iraq war since before it even started. But after hearing the news about the soldier, and watching the media overkill of the Virginia Tech thing while ignoring the soldiers and civilians dying in Iraq every day, I’m back to the boiling point. And I don’t know what to do.

We watched Bill Moyer’s Journal: Buying the War, which you can see in its entirety here: It should be required watching for anyone who plans to vote. In it, he details how journalists, predominantly inside-the-Beltway journalists, drank the Bushie Kool-Aid, how very little actual reporting was (and is) done, how our national “papers of record” schilled for the administration instead of doing any serious reporting. He pointed out that there were journalists doing some very fine reporting on what bullshit the “case” for the Iraq war was (and still is), but since they were not the beltway big guys, they were ignored. Most damming, I think, was how little press coverage was given to voices of dissent, including dissent by important leaders such as Sen. Ted Kennedy. Just watch it—you won’t be bored and will probably be surprised at how angry you can still get even after all these mind-numbing years.

And to George Tenant, I say “fuck you.” You, and people like Sen. Dick Durbin (who admitted he knew the intelligence was bad but said he couldn’t say anything about it so he just voted “no”) and Powell—I don’t forgive you, I don’t accept your apologies. With your silence or your complicity you’ve murdered 3300 soldiers and more than half a million Iraqis and maimed tens of thousands more soldiers and civilians. I won’t pay money for your books or listen to your mea culpas. Just tell me the plan for getting the soldiers out of Iraq within a couple of months—as fast as you can move them to the airports and get them out of there.

And that’s my rant. I wish I could do more than write about it or campaign for candidates who want to get us out of there or write letters to my hawk Congressman (Shays) or that dipshit Sen. LIEberman. At least Sen. Dodd in favor of getting our soldiers out as soon as possible. I don’t know what else to do.

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